Sunday, 11 September 2011

Sunday Salon: 9/11 and its literature

Ground Zero
Image Source: Here
Ten years ago today I was dragged out of my bed by my mother. She was saying something about "You have to see this!" and "Oh my God!" Through the haze of my attempts to wake up, I saw on the television the footage of a plane flying into the side of a building and then, horrifyingly, its collapse with people still inside. Immediately, I was awake. All of the questions that everyone else who was seeing this for the first time came falling out of my mouth. I was rooted to the spot for the next half an hour taking all of the information in. 

I was in my first year of studying at university, a couple of months shy of my 19th birthday. My abiding memory of that day was sitting around in the quad with my friends, all of us trying to comprehend what had happened and what kind of effects it would have on our lives. We had a Statistics exam that evening. I remember that the majority of the class bombed and I always wondered if our lecturer realised why that probably was. 

Ten years later I'm still transfixed by the events of that day as post-9/11 literature is the focus of my thesis. I've read a raft of novels that I consider to be post-9/11 - that is, literature that directly represents the events of the day or the effects on society after the events. I'm more interested in reading novels that register the after-shocks as I always think that seeing what happens after is far more informative than the fiction that tries to re-create what was undeniably a terrible event. So since this is my "Special Topic" of interest, I thought I would create a post-9/11 reading list. To honour the memory of those who perished in the collapse of the towers, the attack on the Pentagon and in the flight that went down in Pennsylvania, I believe it is best to keep on thinking and keep on asking questions. 

Falling Man by Don DeLillo
A Disorder Peculiar to the Country by Ken Kalfus
Man in the Dark by Paul Auster
The Zero by Jess Walter
Ghost Town by Patrick McGrath
Saturday by Ian McEwan
The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

I haven't read these yet but I hear they're worth a look - 
Terrorist by John Updike
Submission by Amy Waldman
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathon Safran Foer.

Also, go over to The New Dork Review of Books for this thoughtful and interesting post about what we should expect from fiction about this subject. 

What is your favourite post-9/11 novel?


  1. I have read a couple of novels that dealt with the 9/11 after effects, which I enjoyed more than if they were "true."

    Joyce Maynard's The Usual Rules is about a young girl whose mother was working at the WTC on that day, and what happens to her life afterwards.


  2. Great idea to provide a list. Interesting topic for a thesis, too. The book I've liked the most that touches in any way on 9/11 is Let the Great World Spin. It's set in New York in the 70s, but is about the tight rope walker who walked between the two towers. So on the surface, it has nothing to do with 9/11, but of course, reading it post 9/11, you can't help but think about it. I like that subtlety.

  3. I highly recommend Incredibly Loud. A very emotional read.

    Here's my whine...that is, uh, post for the week: Slogging Through with a Behemoth Cold.

  4. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is an amazing book - highly recommend. Oskar is an incredible boy. I listened to it on audio first and loved it, but then I saw the actual book and there were pictures. So I read the book, too. Good stuff.

  5. I've read Falling Man, Saturday and a few other post 9/11 books, but Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is by far my favorite. It's amazing the literature that was inspired by that day. It makes me feel hopefully about the human race when we can create something beautiful out of something so terrible.

  6. I'm so glad I stumbled across this post - I'm definately going to check out this Incredibly Loud book - good luck on all of your thesis writing! I started another blog project by the way - couldn't bring myself to read another parenting book, so I'm trying something different - Becoming a Friend Book by Book.